The Magnolia House in downtown McGregor is weeks away from opening, but retailers in this small town 15 miles from Waco are already reporting a flush of “Fixer Upper” fever.
Waco celebrity renovators Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines showed off their transformation of the Victorian home on the popular HGTV show in December and plan to open it as a rental “vacation stay” by early spring.
But in the meantime, fans from around the country have been checking it out and often stopping by McGregor shops and restaurants along the way.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in business,” said JoLynn Brown, owner of Hidden Treasures antique shop on Main Street, showing a guest log of recent shoppers from Ohio, Illinois, North Dakota and Houston. “They’re buying, too.”
More than 3 million viewers watched the holiday “Fixer Upper” special in which the Gaineses renovated the home at 323 S. Madison Ave., the highest viewership for an episode so far of the show’s three seasons.
McGregor City Manager Kevin Evans lives within sight of the house and sees a steady stream of tourists snapping photos.
“We call it ‘Fixer Upper’ tourism,” he said. “It’s really nice to have folks like that see the value in our community. They are making an amazing investment in our town.”
As depicted on the show, Joanna Gaines became enamored of the house while house hunting with a client, Kyle Ferguson, of Waco. Ferguson chose another home, but Gaines got the vision of a vacation home showcasing her homey style.
“We were showing a couple a house and I instantly saw the potential and fell in love with it,” she said in an email response for this story. “When they decided to pass, I knew Chip and I would make a run at it. We really love McGregor and the location of the house. We wanted to give our out-of-town guests the opportunity to stay in a property we designed and feel like it was their own fixer-upper.”
Magnolia spokesman Brock Murphy said this is the first “Fixer Upper” home project that the public has a chance to see up close. Magnolia isn’t booking the rental yet but is expecting to have a waiting list once reservations start.
“We’ve had so many people inquire about it as soon as the episode,” Murphy said.
$190,000 price tag
The house is thought to date to the turn of the 20th century, not long after McGregor was founded in 1882. Originally called the Naler House, the home had been in the Truelove family for decades until the Gaineses bought it last year for $190,000. The property is just across the street from Legacy Park and City Hall and a block from Main Street.
The main two-story house of 2,868 square feet features an unusual floor plan with diagonal rooms inside a square footprint. Under Joanna Gaines’ direction, downstairs walls were removed, opening up a large space with a reading nook under the new staircase.
In accordance with her “farmhouse” aesthetic, the Gaineses replaced shiny brass fixtures with rustic lighting and replaced floral wallpaper with shiplap. Upstairs is a master bedroom with two tiny alcove bedrooms for children and a tea nook with a kitchenette.
In the backyard is a guesthouse of 1,770 square feet that is still under renovation. Each building will be rented in its entirety. Rental rates have not yet been set, and Magnolia officials still are working out details of how the property will be managed.
Murphy said he thinks the rental will be attractive to a gamut of clients, from Baylor University alumni to HGTV fans to Waco couples wanting a small-town getaway.
Evans said the town has attractions such as antique shops, a cigar lounge and nearby Mother Neff State Park. There is an array of eateries, including the Coffee Shop, Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, burger and barbecue joints and a new cupcake shop close to the Magnolia House. McGregor Chamber of Commerce officials are planning to open a farmers market with a festival atmosphere downtown this year.
Evans said he hopes the town can do some more beautification and develop some more tourist-friendly businesses. But he said McGregor is ready for visitors now.
“What we have to sell is nothing more than ourselves,” he said. “The natural draw is being small-town USA. It’s about being good neighbors and good hosts.”
At Cuppie Cakes, the new shop on Third Street, owner Branda Pavlas said she already is getting an increase in business from “Fixer Upper” fans who she sees taking selfies down the street. She hopes the Magnolia House will become a permanent boon to her business.
“I think there’s enough to do here, but it’s on a small scale,” Pavlas said. “Part of what attracts people is the quaintness of being in a small town. I think they’re going to get exactly what they came for. . . . This town is moving forward, it’s progressive and waiting to grow. The potential is limitless for this town.”